Sepp Blatter: I have not resigned as the president of FIFA
Sepp Blatter has fuelled speculation about his future by insisting he has not resigned as FIFA president and will lay down his mandate at a special congress, though the governing body says Blatter's plans to step down have not changed.
On June 2, Blatter announced that he would walk away from the FIFA presidency at an extraordinary congress to be held between December and March.
The move followed the crisis that engulfed FIFA this summer, with 18 people indicted in the United States on football-related corruption charges.
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In what has been seen by some as a mischief-making attempt to unsettle his critics, Blatter said at his first public appearance since his announcement: "I have not resigned. I put my mandate in the hands of an extraordinary congress."
Swiss newspaper Blick reported the comments made by Blatter late on Thursday at an event to thank construction workers at FIFA's new museum in Zurich.
He was applauded by workers, and told them he was "not ready for the museum" himself. "It is good to be here," he said.
"Only those who know the past can understand the present and shape the future," the 79-year-old said. "Or in other words: the ball is round -- but only those who come from outer space know the actual dimensions of our sport."
FIFA later responded, insisting that Blatter had no intention of standing as a candidate again.
"We can confirm the quotes in Blick are accurate," FIFA said in a statement. "However, they are fully in line with the speech of the President on June 2."
Friday's news comes after reports in the Swiss media said Blatter could consider putting his name forward for the presidency again after being contacted by supportive national associations.
At his June 2 press conference, Blatter had said he would "lay down my mandate at an extraordinary elective congress" but would continue as president until that election.
He did add, however, that the election would be for his "successor" and said: "I shall not be a candidate."
Blatter has a tendency to play with words, leaving FIFA to clarify his meaning. Previously, he has spoken of a "mistake" in the awarding of the 2022 World Cup before it was later explained that he meant the error lay in choosing to play in the summer heat in Qatar. The tournament is now scheduled for November-December 2022.
Doubts about Blatter's promise to leave office were also fuelled by Swiss public relations executive Klaus Stoehlker, who served as a campaign adviser ahead of Blatter's recent re-election win.
"The president is fully prepared to step down but only if there is a competitor who is able to take over the job," Stoehlker told the AP on June 15, comparing Blatter to an ancient Swiss warrior. "The Swiss warrior takes decisions, and perhaps when the war is changing, he makes a new decision."
Blatter has not fully explained why he announced he would leave office just four days after winning re-election to a fifth term amid a crisis provoked by American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption linked to FIFA.
American law enforcement officials have confirmed that Blatter is a target of their investigation into widespread bribery and racketeering linked to broadcast rights and hosting votes for international tournaments.
Four football and marketing officials have already made guilty pleas and 14 more were named in an indictment published on May 27. Seven of the indicted men were arrested on corruption charges in early morning raids on FIFA's favorite luxury hotel in Zurich and have since been detained awaiting extradition to the United States.
On Friday, one of the seven was denied release on bail by Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court, which said "there was a risk that the appellant would abscond if released."
Blatter is himself reportedly under investigation by the FBI, and his attendance at the women's World Cup final in Canada next week appears to be in jeopardy due to the twin investigations by the American and Swiss justice authorities.
A source close to FIFA told the Press Association the crisis was having a bearing on whether Blatter travels to Canada. Blatter would normally attend the final and hand the trophy to the captain of the winning team.
But a FIFA spokesperson said: "In terms of the FIFA president and the FIFA secretary general [Jerome Valcke], their future travel plans will be confirmed in due course."
Information from ESPN FC correspondent Jens Weber was used in this report.